Thursday, August 15, 2013

paying it forward: back to school edition

Here's something we haven't really discussed about me: I'm a couponer. Now, don't expect to see me on the next episode of Extreme Couponing or anything, but I do clip from the Sunday newspaper and do the occasional price-matching when I notice a good deal. So, when Campus Book Rentals put out a challenge to buy a backpack and fill it with school supplies using only $25, I wanted to see how far I could make my money go.

This little photobomber wanted to pay it foward, too! (Though he calls it "Paw It Forward." Cats like puns.)

(Note: I was not compensated for this post, but Campus Book Rentals did give me the $25 to shop with on the condition that I donate the backpack. I think that's a pretty cool pay it forward initiative on their part!)

It's been a long time since I have had to shop for school supplies and I wasn't sure where to start. Operation Backpack is a great initiative in Houston that collects backpacks and supplies for kiddos whose parents are having trouble affording supplies. I used their supply list as a guide and wanted to get my backpack as close to "full" by their standards as possible. I also wanted everything in my backpack to be cute and match so this little one could start the year with some flair. My other self-imposed criteria was that all coloring supplies had to be Crayola because let's face it, other brands don't compare.

So, with my money in hand I decided to scour the Sunday paper ads. I loved buying school supplies as a kid so having an excuse to buy them now was fun for me. I mean, who can pass up the chance to get things for a penny? This time of year, there are plenty of things to get. I spent about an hour making lists according to stores so it would be easier to compare prices between all the options. I mean, 50 cents for a glue stick sounds like a good deal but then I realized I could get four for a quarter and I was sold!

I thought buying a backpack would be the hardest part, but Walgreens had them on sale for $3.99 so that was my first stop. Using my Balance Rewards membership and the coupons printed in their flyer, I took my total from $23 to $11. Knowing how much I was going to spend before I got to the cash register helped me make sure I got the best deals. Less than half the budget spent and already a backpack and some supplies? The day was off to a great start!

Spent $11.40 but I SAVED $12.55... and the backpack is pretty cute!

My next stop was Office Max, home of the stuff for a penny. I got five folders and a bunch of other stuff for ten cents or a quarter apiece. I spent less than $4 there and got a ton of stuff, including pens for myself that cost $1 (that I of course did not count toward my $25). (Also, have you met me? Did you really think I could face all these school supplies without getting some for myself?)

I spent $2.79 on all this and I saved $11.57! Gotta love a deal!

Target never lets me down, so I went there last. I hadn't budgeted for a lunch box, but I was excited to find a pink insulated lunch bag for less than $4. I was also happy about the $1 purple calculator because it matched my pink and purple theme.

I spent $8.12 on this. The lunch bag and markers were on sale and all of the other school supplies seemed to be specially priced for back to school!

I got home and laid out everything I got. I didn't think it would all fit in the backpack! In total, I spent $22.98 with tax. I had to drop the bag off at my local grocery store anyway, so I checked the list and saw that a combination lock was suggested and I picked one up for $2.48 the day I dropped off the bag. Total spent: $25.46.

The whole haul, minus the lock!
I got a backpack, lunch bag, five folders, five notebooks, a binder, a ruler, two packs of pens, a pack of pencils, a pack of highlighters, a calculator, pencil sharpener, four gluesticks, erasers, index cards, a pencil bag, markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, construction paper, and two packs of notebook paper. Phew!

I loved this challenge! It didn't take much extra time and it was fun for me to see what bargains I could get. Also, who doesn't love doing something nice for someone else?

I bought the lock, put it in the bag, and dropped off the backpack at the grocery store!

About our sponsor: Campus Book Rentals is a company that offers students up to 90% off their textbooks! It not only allows students to save money, it helps students make money by providing services for students to rent out their textbooks to other students. Campus Book Rentals has been around since 2007, and continues to help students live a more affordable life. Campus Book Rentals is proud to sponsor such an amazing pay it forward event! I was still in college in 2007 - how did I miss this? My boss' daughter is still in school so I will definitely share this with her!

Do you love school supplies? Any other couponers out there? Have you had the chance to pay it forward lately?

The backpack was bigger than it seemed so I modeled it for you. Operation Backpack encouraged you to add a letter to your kid, so I did.


  1. I love shopping for school supplies... even though I don't need them. Haha. :) I would have been a kid in a candy store! This is so sweet too, that you've now helped out a kid for this school year.

    (The owl backpack is so cute!)

  2. this is so awesome! we have a similar thing going on here at work and my team has taken it upon themselves to make this even more fun: have a taco eating contest! a bunch of guys are entering so this will be fun to watch.

    for each taco eaten, $1 will be donated to the pot and then we all go out and buy backpacks and school supplies with that money.

    Vodka and Soda

  3. this is so awesome! we are doing something like this at work and it makes me happy :)

  4. That was so great of you to do! I'm into couponing as well, but unfortunately here it's a little harder to get super deals like on the "Extreme Couponing" show. You did amazing!

  5. That's really cool of them to give you the cash and have you donate the backpack!

    I used to be a better couponer than I am. I should get back into it.

  6. This might be the best thing I read all day. First of all, I love your heart for putting so much effort into this. What a wonderful campaign. You found some really wonderful things (and that backpack is ADORABLE)! Whichever student gets your package is sure to love it. You are such a darling person, Lauren. And I'm proud of you for being so selfless. Also? I need your couponing skills! Lol!

  7. Also? Cats like puns. Duh. I almost died! Too funny!

  8. I enjoyed reading this post! It's amazing all the stuff you were able to get. I don't have the energy or the patience for couponing, but it sure does look like fun! I donated 5 to 7 bags of clothes and misc. stuff to charity today, does that count as paying it forward?

  9. this is such a cool thing you did! so impressed.

  10. I have a legit obsession with pens. What an awesome project, two thumbs up for all the things you managed to squeeze out of that 25 bucks!

  11. This is awesome! That looks like a fabulous backpack to start the new year with :-)

  12. Look at you being awesome!

    I browse the school supplies in Target all the time. I love notebooks!!!

  13. I can't believe how much you got with the $25! Way to go! What a fun pay it forward, I know whoever gets your bag will be so excited. And I think it's so sweet that you left a note with positive messages :)

  14. Ummm this is just awesome! Love that you contributed to Operation Backpack :) Oh and don't worry, I'm a couponer too. Nothing extreme, but I'm not against saving a little bit!

  15. This is fantastic! I love coupons. I kind of suck at grocery coupons, but I am awesome with store coupons!

    I loved school supply shopping and miss it so much. Thank god I work in education and can justify some school shopping every semester!


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